Want to show a major industry but don't have the space? Coal mining is one of the favorite industries to model on a railroad by providing plenty of excuses for long unit trains pulled by BR44s, 221s, 120s, and 132s (the latter two being DR-East). To accurately model a major active coal mine like those that existed all over the industrial Ruhr, the Saar, the area around Aachen, or in the Braunkohlenrevier of the DDR would require huge amounts of space. However, what about modeling a coal mine that has closed either because it was no longer profitable or simply because it was time to follow the coal seams in another direction.
Roland Keller posted a great series of images from the Alsdorf region around Aachen in far western Germany. In response to a question regarding time frame and suitability for modeling, he responded saying that the mines in this region started migrating north even before WW II leaving behind the mine heads and various outbuildings required for ventilation and pumping out the groundwater after closing. The first major zechensterben (mine deaths) in Germany occurred in 1958, then again around 1962. The imagery would remain similar, with few abandoned structures remaining, and nature reclaiming the rest very quickly. The process would repeat itself again and again into the current time. The series of images continued here, and here. Another amazing series of the mine operations in this region by Martin Welzel can be seen here.
This would be fairly easy to compress into a smaller area or the background with trains rushing by in the foreground... Finally an prototypical use for the small Faller mine head... Maybe I wasn't "that far" off base when I placed mine... ;-) (These mines were very often in urban areas).
The first photo above is from Roland Keller's series in the Historische Bahn forum of Drehscheibe Online. The series can be viewed at: